Published by: Balzer + Bray / Harper Teen, October 5, 2010
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Format/pages: Hardcover 296 pages
Format read/Source: Hardcover from library
Date read: February 21 2011
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Challenges: 100 Books/Year, Dystopia
Summary from Goodreads:
Kid knows her school’s corporate sponsors not-so-secretly monitor her friendships and activities for market research. It’s all a part of the Game; the alternative education system designed to use the addictive kick from video games to encourage academic learning. Everyday, a captive audience of students ages 13-17 enter the nationwide chain store-like Game locations to play.
When a group calling themselves The Unidentified simulates a suicide to protest the power structure of their school, Kid’s investigation into their pranks attracts unwanted attention from the sponsors. As Kid finds out she doesn’t have rights to her ideas, her privacy, or identity, she and her friends look for a way to revolt in a place where all acts of rebellion are just spun into the next new ad campaign.
This dystopian book tackles privacy, social networking and consumerism. It has a fast pace and is set in a recognizable world in the future where corporate sponsors run school in abandoned shopping malls. The students rack up points and friends with the goal of becoming “branded” by a sponsor. This is a smart dystopian book with punchy dialogue written with original slang that is a relevant commentary on privacy and consumer issues faced today. With so many vacancies in shopping malls and budget cuts plaguing schools today it makes me wonder if this type of society could occur.
The Game is attractive to parents because it is a safe place for students to go to avoid the dangers of the outside world. The students are monitored with tracking devices that the parents can follow. The video game like school makes learning fun as the students develop their own educational plan based on their interests. The sponsors compete for the students’ interest with their own modules such as math tests on a flight simulator.
The protagonist, fifteen-year-old Katey (aka Kid) is not playing the Game to her full potential. She has few friends on her intouch device and is not a conformist. She does not have the resources to follow the latest fashion trends that would get her noticed by a sponsor. Her best friend Ari has bought into the Game whole-heartedly and would do anything to get sponsored. Kid starts to question her role in the Game when she witnesses a rebellious act by a group called The Unidentified, and gains some sponsor attention. Kid learns that the popularity and gifts afforded by the sponsors comes with strings attached.
In this world there is no privacy and all the students “perform” in school as if they are being watched on camera at all times, which they are. School popularity and cliques are taken to a whole new level with the students trying to stay on top of the trends in order to get free clothes from the sponsors. They follow the rules unquestioningly to avoid the dreaded “Game Over”. It is hard to find someone to trust and a true friend in this society where gossip and backstabbing are the norm. Even rebellion can be trendy.
I enjoyed this book and following Kid on her journey in the Game. It is a unique observation of identity, privacy and consumerism. This is Rae Mariz’s debut novel and it is a stand-alone book. Recommended if you enjoyed other YA Sci-fi dystopians such as Across The Universe.
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